Thursday, September 15, 2011

Will this all end with a bang or a whimper? - Part II

David Seaton's News Links
I'm afraid Dave
There is something in human history like retribution; and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself. The first blow dealt to the French monarchy proceeded from the nobility, not from the peasants. The Indian revolt does not commence with the ryots, tortured, dishonoured and stripped naked by the British, but with the sepoys, clad, fed and petted, fatted and pampered by them. Karl Marx
I have chosen the death of HAL - 9000, the homicidal, super-computer in Stanley Kubrick's, monumental, "2001 - Space Odyssey" as a perfect match to the quote from Marx. The killer tool can only be disarmed by an expert familiar with its inner secrets, by definition, someone who has worked in close collaboration with the tool that he now has to disable in order to survive. That, I believe will be the true "revolution"... The revolt of the geeks against the machines they have created and maintained, which are finally going to attempt to replace them too.
Here is the situation as it stands today:
New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures -- from EZpasses ousting toll collectors to Google-controlled self-driving automobiles rendering taxicab drivers obsolete. Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs. We like to believe that the appropriate response is to train humans for higher level work. Instead of collecting tolls, the trained worker will fix and program toll-collecting robots. But it never really works out that way, since not as many people are needed to make the robots as the robots replace. Douglas Rushkoff - CNN
As Harvard's Dani Rodrik says, "Without a vibrant manufacturing base, societies tend to divide between rich and poor – those who have access to steady, well-paying jobs, and those whose jobs are less secure and lives more precarious." The new technologies are destroying the middle class, by definition, the hard working, tax paying, rule following, mediocre, salt of the earth and elevating those who design and maintain the machines that are decimating their world and impoverishing them. They are helpless in the face of this because they don't understand the technology. Helpless as aborigines facing the "white man" with bows and arrows.
In contrast those who have degrees in mathematics, physics, computer science and the like are getting paid enormous salaries in designing the systems that are putting the less educated out of work or in designing ever more esoteric financial schemes.
But their salad days are numbered... the supercomputer, HAL, is out of the cradle and making his first toddling steps. If Moore's Law applies to super-computation, as it does to the rest of the field, in a period of time that a supercomputer of today could already calculate, a doctorate in math or physics could get you a position changing some grumpy old man's diapers or parking cars.
And that is when "Dave" will turn off HAL.
If there ever is a "revolution" it will begin with the "clad, fed and petted, fatted and pampered" intelligence workers and the sans culottes will follow.  When? How should I know? Ask the SGI Altix. DS

No comments: